He was running from his brother Esau.
Jacob had tricked his brother out of their fathers blessing, and now Esau was so angry, he wanted to kill him.
So Jacob was traveling east, to the land where his grandfather Abraham was born.
He was also hoping to choose a wife from his grandfather's family.
Early on a warm afternoon, he came to a well in the fields outside the town of Haran.
The well was just like the one that his grandfathers servant had come to many years before, when he was looking for a wife for Isaac. It may have been the very same one.
Three flocks of sheep were lying in the fields beside the well, waiting for their shepherds to water them.
There was a large stone covering the well, and the shepherds had to wait until all the shepherds were there before they could move it.
So Jacob came up to the shepherds and said, My friends, where are you from?
From Haran, they answered.
Then you must know my uncle Laban! He is from Haran, Jacob said.
Yes, we do, the shepherds answered.
Is he well? Jacob asked.
He is well, indeed, the shepherds said, And look, here comes his daughter Rachel now, with his flock of sheep!
Jacob said, Lets roll back the stone so that we can water the sheep.
We cant, the stone is too heavy," the shepherds answered. "We have to wait until all the shepherds are here.
At that moment Rachel arrived with her fathers sheep.
When Jacobs eyes met Rachels, it was as if the world came to a stop. The crying of the sheep, the laughing and talking of the shepherds, all seemed to disappear. It was as if there was no one else in all the world but the two of them.
Jacob fell so deeply, crazy in love with Rachel, that he walked over to that huge stone and rolled it away himself.
"Here, now you may water your sheep!" he said to Rachel.
And then he kissed her.
I am your relative. Your aunt Rebekah is my mother, he told her at last.
Rachel ran home to tell her father all that had happened. When her father heard the news, he ran to meet Jacob. He hugged and kissed this nephew he hadn't known until now, and brought him to his home.
When Jacob had told his story, Laban said, You are indeed my own flesh and blood!
And so Jacob stayed with his uncles family for a whole month. Then Laban said to Jacob, You shouldnt have to work for me for nothing just because you are my relative! How can I pay you?
Now, Laban had two daughters. Rachel was the younger, and Leah was the older. Leah had beautiful eyes, but Jacob was in love with Rachel. And so Jacob said, I will work for you for seven years if you will let me marry your daughter Rachel.
Laban said, I would rather give her to you than to anyone else.
And so Jacob worked for his uncle for seven years.
But to Jacob, the years seemed like nothing at all. Just to be near the one he loved was enough to fill his heart.
Finally, the day came that Jacob had worked for all those years. At last, Laban gave his daughter Rachel to be married.
There was a great wedding feast. And that night, under a sky of shining stars, Rachel came to Jacobs tent. She was wrapped from head to foot in layers of veils and flowing robes.
Jacob took her by the hand and led her inside. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. They were alone together at last. And that night, in the eyes of God, Rachel became Jacobs wife, and he became her husband.
Before that night they were two separate people. Now God had joined the two together, and they became one family.
The two became one.
But, when the light of morning came, Jacob awoke to a big surprise.
It wasnt Rachel he had married at all! It was her sister Leah he was lying beside!
Jacob jumped from his bed and ran straight to the tent of his Uncle Laban.
You tricked me! You promised me Rachel, but you gave me Leah instead!
Well - look who's talking! The cheater got cheated.
He didnt like it very much.
Laban said to him, It isnt our custom to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older. Work for me another seven years, and I will give you Rachel as well.
And so Jacob agreed, and Jacob and Rachel were married at last.
Jacob worked for his uncle another seven years.
He would have gladly worked a hundred, he loved her so deeply.